I have a really gorgeous, small budget Maryland wedding to share with you this morning. When Amber Wilkie Photography dropped this beauty in my Two Bright Lights inbox, I nearly jumped off the couch with excitement.

This wedding is GORGEOUS.

And has all those hand-made details and personal touches that I just swoon over. Plus, the bride, Olivia is one of the nicest people I have encountered, and she has shared some really amazing, and personal details with me to post along with her gorgeous pictures.

You are all in for a real treat :)

Olivia & Eric’s beautiful, small-budget Maryland wedding

About the couple from Amber Wilkie Photography:

Olivia and Eric met in Afghanistan while working on various military projects. When Eric ended up stationed in Williamsburg, they knew they could continue their relationship.

I always tease my couples about having kids and most of them get nervous and evade the question (makes for good laughing photos!) but Olivia didn’t blink and said they’d be trying for children right away. These two didn’t want to have a big party and instead opted for a very classy but still relaxed event at a local restaurant.

Olivia on the Maryland wedding venue selection:

Venue:  We wanted an all-in-one, indoor location to avoid weather, transportation, and herding issues.  Because a few guests would be making our wedding into a day trip, we decided on a late morning ceremony with lunch.  I searched opentable.com for well-reviewed restaurants that people had voted as “good for groups”.  From there, I perused a few menus and photos before narrowing the list down to three restaurants.  I emailed all three to ensure availability (explaining we were planning both a ceremony and reception), and lunched at them to get a sense of their ambiance, service, and food.

From the moment I drove up to La Ferme and met with the owner, Alain, I knew this was the place.  Charming, intimate, unpretentious…perfect.  The layout of La Ferme was conducive for the small, intimate ceremony and reception we wanted.  Alain was very accommodating and flexible, and through his experience with past weddings at the restaurant, had good ideas and suggestions for flow, seating arrangements, where to hold the ceremony, and so on.


How it all began …

  Eric and I met on deployment, but it took us a while to become friends because our lives were tightly defined by our jobs and mission. We eventually became work-out buddies and developed a routine of eating chow together after the gym.  Maybe because we were in a war zone, our conversations tended to be soul-searching and meaningful.  Still, it took several thousand miles, a couple of unsuccessful relationships, and a few, long months before Eric and I reconnected at home and saw the potential in “us”.  We were engaged the following May, and planned the wedding for July!

Despite only having a couple of months and a budget of $3000, the wedding planning was smooth, surprisingly stress-free, and done almost completely online.  Having a guest list of 30 helped quite a bit.  At first, I went to theknot.com for planning advice and tips, but was quickly overwhelmed.  I definitely didn’t need that many checklists or reminders, so instead, I made a simple list of things we needed and how much I was willing to spend.

Olivia’s friend Kim made all the flower arrangements from flowers purchased from Whole Foods! Talk about DIY flowers.

My friend, Kimberly, volunteered to do the flowers as her gift to me.  We went to Whole Foods, I picked out what I liked, and she put it all together!  She’s pretty talented that way.

Click inside to see more of Olivia & Eric’s intimate, small-budget Maryland wedding!

Olivia’s wedding dress, hair, and makeup were also budget-friendly and cost conscious. She got her dress off the rack from Nordstrom and did her wedding hair & makeup herself!

I didn’t want to blow money on a dress I’d wear once, so the plan was to check online stores first, then trek over to Marshall’s and like stores.  I scored big at Nordstrom.com.  Not only did they have a beautiful dress in my size, but it fell under my dress budget of $500…well, that is until I had it hemmed at Kim’s Tailoring at Pentagon City.  It was worth it, though…Ms. Kim did a superb job with the intricate lace.

As for hair and make-up, I did it myself.  It clearly didn’t have a professional touch, but Eric thought I looked beautiful and I saved a lot of money, so I’m happy with the decision.

Olivia & Eric used an officiant that they had found from theknot.com:

I found Joyce Hilbery, our officiant, through theknot.com (she’s also at mddcweddings.com).  She had an adorable Scottish lilt and an easy-going personality that fit the feel of who we wanted officiating our ceremony.

I adore this insight about the song Olivia & Eric walked down the aisle to:

Eric doesn’t really listen to the lyrics of songs, which drives me nuts, so I knew it was special when he asked me to listen to Jim Brickman’s “Love of My Life”.  It was beautiful, and he said it captured how he felt about me, so I wanted to surprise him with it during our ceremony.  I found a version sung by Tom Douglas and queued it as the wedding march on my iTunes playlist.  Eric was caught off guard in a good way, and he told me later that he liked the personal touch and appreciated the thought I’d put into it.

And this is why intimate weddings are unique and sometimes allow for that extra “oompf” of personalization …

We thought it would be a nice touch to do a ring-warming during our ceremony, so we tied our wedding bands together and passed them around the room.  Each guest held the rings for a moment, “warming” them with good thoughts and well wishes, and now when we look down at our rings, we’re reminded of everyone’s love and happiness for us.

I love everything about this “ring-warming” ceremony. The symbolism behind it, the reminder of love and happiness it gave Olivia. It warms MY heart and I wasn’t even at the wedding [nor do I even know the couple!].

Olivia shares her thoughts and opinions on  wedding photography ~ a must read for engaged couples … she almost went without wedding photography all together!

I was this close to not having a photographer at all. However, my married friends insisted I hire a professional photographer, so I contacted a few to see if they would work a la carte.

One of them referred me to Amber Wilkie, and you can see the results for yourself!  We loved how she captured moments as they happened.  Nothing felt contrived or posed.  Even the portraits were executed naturally.  Amber was super fun, our guests loved working with her, and our pictures are amazing.

It was meant to be, and I am now a staunch believer in professional photographers for important events…at a reasonable price, of course.


I know everyone struggles with the wedding party selection … especially when it isn’t so cut and dry and you don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I love Olivia & Eric’s take on the nontraditional wedding party … opting to go without a wedding party completely!

Because we were keeping the wedding so small, we decided not to have groomsmen or bridesmaids.  We thought it would be easier for our family and friends to enjoy the celebration without added responsibilities or duties, and I figured my girlfriends didn’t need the title of bridesmaid to know they were special to me.

Though I must admit – these ladies look much the part ~ this looks like a perfect purple bridesmaids palette! It really looks like they planned it! Great taste ladies :)


Our guests ordered their delicious lunches from a pre-selected menu of appetizers, entrees, and desserts.  For the menus, I used a photo we had taken along the banks of Lake Michigan during our engagement trip, inserted our wedding details and menu selection using picnik.com, and ordered 5×7 prints from Costco.com.  I think it cost around $11, and they were a great souvenir for the guests!

^I LOVE this idea! What an awesome unique DIY menu idea for your wedding. I fretted over menus for a while for my own wedding – at first I thought they were a waste and then at the last minute I thought we just HAD to have them, so I ended up printing them out and making origami menu stands … but this right here is a great, easy, simple, and budget-friendly idea. I love it.


Olivia describes the next picture:

There was also a birds-eye shot of our reception from an upstairs balcony.  Everyone’s enjoying their food and company, and then you see one of the little girls looking up at Amber and posing for the camera.  Hilarious.  You can’t plan pictures like that.

La Ferme surprised the kids with ice cream sundaes!

… we had no idea La Ferme would go all out with the children’s ice cream sundaes!  You should’ve seen how excited the little ones were, getting to choose from all sorts of toppings…and they could have as much as they wanted! 

Olivia’s closing remarks on their perfect, small budget wedding:

In the end, we went a few hundred dollars over budget, but we didn’t care.  We had an amazing, beautiful, and intimate wedding ceremony surrounded by people we love.  We enjoyed course after course of delicious food with excellent service, and we drank and got toasty with well-selected wine.  We made great memories that were captured by a great photographer.  It was perfect.  :)

Congratulations Olivia & Eric. I cannot thank you enough for sharing your beautiful wedding with me! A special thanks to Amber Wilkie Photography & Two Bright Lights for submission of the images!



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